Douglas McKay papers , 1925-1958

Overview of the Collection

McKay, Douglas, 1893-1959
Douglas McKay papers
1925-1958 (inclusive)
39.5 linear feet, (72 containers)
Collection Number
Ax 063
Collection consists of files on various organizations in which McKay was involved or interested, such as the American Legion, the Oregon Automobile Dealers Association, and the Oregon Mounted Posse. There are political files, including material for the 1948 and 1950 campaigns for governor and a file on the Eisenhower campaign of 1952. The files of the Secretary of the Interior consist of letters, a trip file, appointment books, and miscellaneous personal correspondence. There is a complete file of McKay's speeches when he was Secretary of the Interior. The records of the McKay-Morse campaign consist of correspondence, financial records, and campaign literature.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

A descendant of Oregon pioneers, Oregon Governor James Douglas McKay (he later dropped the first name) was born in Portland, Oregon, on June 24, 1893, the son of E. D. and Minnie A. Musgrove McKay. His paternal grandfather, Malcolm McKay, had previously been a Hudson Bay Company storekeeper at Fort Vancouver. Douglas McKay's father was a carpenter, and all of McKay's grandparents were in Oregon by 1852, seven years before the Territory became a State.

Throughout his childhood, McKay worked to help support his family. Information in the Oregon State Archives stated that his father abandoned them, leaving his mother with little money. But according to an article in the Portland Oregonian about Mrs. McKay, the father died. Nevertheless, when he was thirteen, McKay began to work after school and on Saturdays. He left school at the age of eighteen, without receiving a diploma, to enroll in night classes so that he might take a job at a salary of $35 a month as office boy in the office of division superintendent of the Union Pacific railroad.

Two years later McKay entered Oregon State College at Corvallis as a "sub-freshman" in agriculture. From the time he was chosen president of his freshman class, he never lost his interest in politics. He was awarded the B.S. degree in the spring of 1917.

McKay married Mabel C. Hill on March 31, 1917, just before gong to Officers' Training School at the Presidio in San Francisco for service in World War I. According to Biographies Plus Illustrated, he became a second lieutenant in the 361st Infantry Regiment of the Ninety-first (Pacific Coast) Division, and served with the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. On October 3, 1918, during the battle for Sedan in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, a severe shell wound removed him from combat. He had been wounded in six places around his right shoulder and almost lost his arm; he underwent several operations to restore the use of his shoulder. McKay was awarded the Purple Heart.

After the war, McKay lived with his wife and children in Portland where he sold insurance and worked as a car salesman. In 1927, he moved to Salem and purchased his own car dealership, which he called Douglas McKay Chevrolet. After living in Salem for five years, he was elected mayor in 1932.

In January 1934, Douglas McKay announced his candidacy for the State Legislature as a Senator from Marion County. He was elected for the terms 1935-1937, 1939-1941, 1943-1945, and after World War II service, for 1945-1947.

McKay volunteered for active service in W.W. II, (he was 49) and was given limited service status because of his World War I injury, according to Biographies Plus Illustrated. Commissioned a Captain in October 1942, McKay served at Camp Murray, Washington, and later as public relations officer at Camp Adair, Oregon. McKay's seat in the Senate was filled by an appointment of the Marion County court. He was discharged at the end of W.W. II as a Major.

In 1946, McKay was State campaign chairman for Earl Snell when the latter ran for his second term. Less than a year after his re-election Governor Snell lost his life in an airplane accident. Also killed in the accident were some of Oregon's top political figures, Robert S. Farrell, Jr., Secretary of State, and Marshall E. Cornett, president of the State Senate. Speaker of the Oregon House John H. Hall automatically became Governor.

The consummate politician launched his campaign for governor with the slogan "You Can Count on Doug McKay." In the November 1948, election Oregon voted Douglas McKay into office, after a three-way race involving McKay, Democrat Lew Wallace, and Independent Wendell E. Barnett.

McKay left the governorship in 1952 when President Eisenhower appointed him Secretary of the Interior. He was instrumental in running Eisenhower's Western campaign. McKay's popularity dropped after accepting the appointment, because many felt he was abandoning his state for the federal government. In 1956, McKay resigned from his post to run for United States Senator. He lost to the Democratic incumbent, Wayne Morse.

The life-long Oregonian of pioneer stock retired from political life and the car business in the late 1950s. According to the Oregon State Archives materials, he spent his last years in Salem with his wife. McKay died on July 22, 1959 after an extended illness. He was 66. Douglas McKay was survived by his wife Shirley, and their two daughters, Shirley (Mrs. Wayne Hadley), and Mary Lou, and two grandchildren, Eileen Patricia and Allan Craig Hadley. A son, Douglas McKay, Jr., was killed in an automobile accident in November 1939.

Sources: Oregon State Archives; Biography Plus Illustrated; Portland Oregonian p24 Ja. 2 '49 pors.; Portland (Ore.) Sunday Journal p1C N 7 '48 pors.; and New York Times p27 Jl. 23 '59.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Douglas McKay papers (1925-1958) consist of files on various organizations in which McKay was a member, or in which he was interested, such as the American Legion, the Oregon Automobile Dealers Association, and the Oregon Mounted Posse. Political files to 1948 include correspondence on the Oregon State Legislature and the Republican Party Central Committee.

Sample material is in the file for the 1948 and 1950 campaigns for governor, and the general correspondence of the governor is included. The general correspondence ranges from speaking invitations to political advice and requests for appointments.

There is a file on the Eisenhower campaign of 1952.

The files of the Secretary of the Interior consist of letters received, and office copies of letters sent, a trip file, appointment books, and miscellaneous personal correspondence. There is also a complete file of McKay's speeches when his was Secretary of the Interior.

The records of the McKay-Morse campaign consist of correspondence, financial records, and campaign literature.

The collection is arranged in eight series, in the order of his public career. The series range from the pre-1948 Douglas McKay, to McKay as Governor of Oregon, and to Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay. The internal arrangement is basically that preserved by McKay's various secretaries.

Of interest to the researcher: McKay's two-page essay, "My Job" that he wrote about his position as governor. This essay is contained in the collection's biographical files, and a statement from Dr. Richard B. Dillehunt, Dean Emeritus of the University of Oregon medical school regarding McKay's fortitude during his recuperation from shrapnel injuries at an Army hospital in France and subsequent surgeries; a tabloid publication featuring his re-election campaign for governor.

An interesting discrepancy concerns the former Oregon Governor's biography. One on-line biography states that McKay's father left the family, yet, in an article in the Portland Oregonian, McKay's mother states that the senior McKay died. The article is within the collection.

Separated material of interest to the researcher includes two files: The first folder from box 7 is 117 2.25" negatives of Camp Adair; 43 2.25" black and white photographs; and two 8x10 black and white prints documenting the construction of the camp. Now placed in Series VIII. Photographs, box 72, folder 1. The second folder is from box 25, folder 1, and is a colored ink "print" of General White (for whom Camp White near Medford, OR is named) on white muslin, 15"x24.5". Name of camp in blues at top and "signed" by Peter Paul Patrick [P?]osluszny of Camp White. Placed in Series VII. Oversize, box 71, folder 1.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Governors--Oregon
  • Mayors--Oregon--Salem
  • Political campaigns--Oregon

Personal Names

  • Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
  • Morse, Wayne L. (Wayne Lyman), 1900-1974

Corporate Names

  • American Legion
  • Oregon Mounted Posse
  • Oregon State Motor Association
  • Oregon. Legislative Assembly. Senate
  • United States. Department of the Interior

Geographical Names

  • Camp Adair (Or.)
  • Oregon--Politics and government
  • United States--Politics and government--1945-1953
  • United States--Politics and government--1953-1961

Form or Genre Terms

  • Campaign literature
  • Correspondence